tv CNN Newsroom With Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul CNN May 13, 2017 7:00am-8:01am PDT
good morning to you. so grateful to have you with us. i'm christi paul. >> i'm victor blackwell. cnn newsroom begins right now. >> this hour president trump will address students at liberty university. our cameras are there. we'll bring it to you as soon as it transpires. he just arrived with his chief strategist steve bannon. >> this is mr. trump's first
commencements since becoming president. it comes after the white house fallout of the sudden dismissal of james comey during the fbi investigation into possible ties between the trump administration or rather trump campaign, i should say and russia. now this is as four candidates prepare to interview today for the fbi director job. >> we have a team of political reporters and analysts standing by here. let's begin with cnn washington correspondent ryan nobles who is at the commencement. you see him there on the left. what are you hearing from the crowd there? i understand there's about 7,000 students and families who will be watching. what are they saying? what do they expect? >> reporter: well, this is expected to be a pretty friendly crowd for the president. this is a group of people and voters in particular that generally supported him during the election and, of course, here at liberty university their president jerry falwell jr. a very influential evangelical leader that allowed the
president to coalesce evangelical support. we don't aspect him to make too much news during this speech here today at liberty university. instead just words of encouragement for the graduates. he did make news on his flight down on air force one, talking to reporters very briefly in the cabin of air force one. the president told reporters they could report out he's very close to making a decision about who the next fbi director will be and he said that decision could come as soon as next week, before he heads out on a lengthy trip abroad. that's a significant development after a tumultuous week in washington. the president hopes when he comes here to lynchberg, virginia with a very friendly crowd. we see those make america great again hats. he's to speak in about another half hour.
>> thank you. right there on the right-hand side of your screen we see from moments ago the president as he arrives taking some steps down to the waiting car and on his way to liberty university. >> as the president prepares to speak there in lynchburg, some waiting to hear from him are still conflicted over their support for the president. let's go to another part of the city there, lynchburg, another cnn correspondent spoke with a family that is mixed on their support. not all of them supported him, the president. >> reporter: hey guys, good morning. there seems to be, many constituents in the heart of the bible belt who are not sure what to make about president trump's recent tweets and behavior. what we did find the president still enjoys the benefit of doubt from many of those in the heart of the bible belt and we found that was at play under one family's roof. they call it the white house of
lynchburg. the white family tackles everything at the dinner table from projects to politics behind the controversial firing of fbi director james comey. >> those who are, which is the majority here, those who are pro trump voted for trump, i think something like this doesn't, isn't going to shake them one bit. >> reporter: larry white and his wife kathy are raising their family in lynchburg, in the center of virginia but leaning right more than 50% of the city voted for donald trump. >> we all basically have the same world view. a christian world view. but when it gets into politics there's certainly going to be some variation. >> reporter: the whites are highly conservative but also conflicted when it comes to their views on president trump. >> i didn't actually vote for him. >> reporter: 23-year-old ana white is one of the few in her family who didn't cast a vote for president trump. recent trump tweets have reassured her of her decision. her president trump voting
family members still stand by their choice. >> i don't think there will be any one time oh, okay shouldn't have voted for him, he was not the her joy thought he was. like he wasn't a hero to begin with. >> you didn't vote for him thinking avenues hero. >> i have trust issues with the former president. and the president before that. so the idea of trusting this president, or not trusting is not new. >> reporter: this is the kind of dialogue you'll find at the white's dinner table. >> intense. we get very intense and passionate. >> there's a lot of us so it's hard to talk at the dinner table. >> reporter: this weekend it's trump's turn to talk in lynchburg a place that welcomed him as a candidate and now as president. this part of virginia is home to some of trump's steadfast supporters as the city republican vice chair. >> he was part of the reagan revolution. it's important for people to come to lynchburg, meet voters,
meet people and see what it's all about. >> reporter: over 100 days into trump's presidency griffin and fellow republicans seem unphased by the controversy swirling over the white house. >> i want to support the job he's doing. i want him to be a good representation of america. i love this country >> reporter: the white's faith in president trump is being tested but their faith in the office is unshakeable. a feeling shared by many in this brass buckle of the bible belt. and the white will be in the audience waiting to hear president trump speak. the comey termination has dominated the conversation at the dinner table. people here say they are questioning the timing. others felt it was the right thing to do. there was a consensus with one question among the white family and that is president trump should stop tweeting.
>> thank you. let's bring in our panel to discuss. cnn commentator, cnn political analyst, cnn presidential historian and former clinton campaign media director. welcome to all. we're just a few minutes away from the president speaking today. first to you, adams, our presidential historian. this president first choice here liberty university. the significance and what you expect to hear from him? >> first of all i'm always interested when the president use as prayer address. i'm interested in the themes he focus on. we're going to see some shift if any in his message. i'm also going to be looking for statements by the president -- president likes to interact with the audience. maybe he'll say some things off the cuff that's not in his prepared remarks. it would be interesting if he were to refer to the last week
and talked about how he understands leadership. be interesting if he talked about rule of law. and it would also be important if he doesn't refer at all to the controversy of the last week. so, i'll be listening intently. >> ron, what do you anticipate we'll hear? are we going to hear something that will make news today? are we going to hear a message of unity as we have gotten word that at least it will in part be something along those lines and how will he do that? >> i'll be surprised if he addresses the issues that are front and raised by his dismissal of the fbi director. evangelical christians are a corner stone of the republican coalition based on issues, you know, especially when conservative christian movement started it was often described as values voters. it's hard to see how donald trump with everything that's swirled around him in the
campaign was an example of values, you know, defined in that way. it was more about issue position and particularly the appointment of a fifth republican justice on the supreme court which has been his biggest policy achievement so far. he won 80% of white evangelical christians. this is right at the corner stone of the coalition and i think he'll be talking about the policy positions that kind of connect him to those voters. i think that will be the principle message i think today because as i say, it is not really a values connection, it's a policy connection and that was made very clear in this campaign. >> you see on the stage the president there arriving to his, his left, your right on the screen. this is jerry falwell jr. head of liberty university there. as we watch here live pictures, the president preparing for the commencement address his first commencement as president of the united states, not all of these students are supportive of the president.
during the campaign we know there were protests today. but during the campaign there was a petition online and a letter liberty united against trump. i want to read just a portion of this to give us maybe some color about some of those in opposition. because our president has led the world to believe that liberty university supports donald trump, we students must take it upon ourselves to make clear that donald trump is absolutely opposed to what we believe and does not have our support. we're not proclaiming our opposition to donald trump out of bitterness but out of a desire to regain the integrity of our school. they go on to say we don't want to champion donald trump we want only to champion for christ. so, the narrative that this is in full an audience that is friendly to the president, maybe not 100% accurate. >> i think that's true. i think that certainly if you're an evangelical who believes that lying is against what the bible teaches, if you believe that
committing egregious acts of sexual assault against women by groping them that's against what the bible teaches then you're going to be in opposition to donald trump and i think that, you know, the students who wrote that certainly were concerned about a number of different things he said during the campaign whether they be racist or sexist and i think that coming out against donald trump shows that they believe in the tenets of the bible and what it teaches and they have integrity in that regard. >> don't go anywhere. we see them putting hand to heart. most likely saying the pledge of allegiance. we'll be right back as we have word from the president as he was on air force one on his way to make his commencement speech. we'll play that for you after the break. stay close.
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>> and job creation with the power vested in people -- >> you're looking here at the liberty university commencement as it gets under way. the president not in your screen there but shortly as he delivers the first commencement speech to liberty university. the first extended appearance we'll see from him after the firing of fbi director, now former africa director james comey. >> this comes during that period, the question now was the firing of james comey directly related to the fbi investigation into russia's immediate knowledge to the 2016 election? here's what the president said a few moments ago on air force one on comey's replacement. watch this. >> do you think you might make a decision or an announcement? >> these are outstanding people that are very well known.
highest level. >> before the trip next week important,ly? >> even that is possible. >> our panel is back with us now. let's start with andre. we didn't get you last time. just now potentially days away, andre, from the announcement of the next potential fbi director. >> that's exciting. you know, i have my own favorite but whom ever is i think it starts a fresh start to a new presidency. many people were concerned about the former fbi director's different ties and allegiances. so part of it in the administration is cleaning it. and keep in mind part of donald trump's big sale to the american people he was draining the swamp. i'm a firm believer in term limits not only for members of the united states congress and senate but so many of these agency heads. it needs turn over from time to time. >> if you look at the list of people who are being considered these are fresh faces from outside of washington.
let's put up the four faces if we can. go ahead, andre. >> well, my hope is that we do get somebody that has a nonpartisan background. but outside of that it's time for some turnover in so many of these different positions not just fbi director. i know when i was a state senator i got rid of the magistrates and put new ones in. people elected me over the person that had been there for a long time and i came in with a different idea and different approach to government. there were some growing pains but that's part of continuing this wonderful electoral system we have and if people didn't like that they didn't have to vote for me next time as they can with donald trump. >> i want to ask you, adams, we had some reporting from cnn here from some senior white house officials that there's a sense of dejection that most were
caught offguard by the decision to fire james comey and even vice president mike pence was rattled by the events this week. what do you make of that characterization of the morale in the white house this early on in the presidency? >> well, this president seems to be winging it a lot of the time. and the decision to remove the director of the fbi at a time when the fbi is under take an investigation of the 2016 campaign creates at the very least leaving aside legal and political issues. terrible optics. and the president normally works with his inner team, i mean previous presidents, republican or democrat would have worked with their team to come up with a communication strategy, a messaging strategy to prepare the american people, to explain why such a potentially controversial decision was made. and, obviously, it didn't happen in this case.
we saw that with the scrambling, the fact the explanation of why comey was fired changed and the president himself upset or undermined the white house's explanation. i don't know whether the morale was high or low. i wouldn't be surprised if it was low. what i think will be interesting to watch is the extent to which the white house team can be consistent over the next little while. has the president learned anything from this? will he? can he learn from this? the impression that the united states, the american people got last week was a country that was led by a white house that is in disarray. and if the morale is low there, it's not surprising to me at all. >> let me come to you, ron from the air force one there we heard from the president that it could be potentially a few days which means we go from firing of james comey to now the path to confirming the next fbi director. is washington ready to pick the
next guy or woman without knowing how or why the previous fbi director was let go? >> i think your question answers itself. there are many, many questions to be answered about how the previous person was let go. i can't -- andre's point kind of misses the central issue here is that whatever the other motivations, other justifications were for removing james comey, the president fired the senior law enforcement official overseeing the investigation of whether his campaign was colluding with the russians in an effort the destabilize the 2016 election. that's the core issue. that hangs over whoever comes into the job. whoever he points no matter how independent, no matter how well-respected is coming in to office with the knowledge that the president fired their predecessor while they were pursuing this investigation and to tim's point acknowledge that that was part of his thinking in the interview with lester holt after sending out the white house or allowing or encouraging
the white house staff to go out with a completely different story that they undermine and made not true from the beginning. that's there. that's part of this legacy going forward, no matter who steps into this job they know their predecessor was removed by the president while they were investigating. now, we've had legal scholars today in the newspaper debating whether that amounts to an obstruction of justice depending on the mine set of the president. all of that is a very serious cloud over this next appointment and the idea that we're going to turn the page and move on to the merits of another person without fully investigating here i think is kind of unlikely. >> a lot of people think this investigation can't move forward without hearing from comey himself. and we're getting word from the "new york times" reporting this morning that comey does want to testify, but he wants to do so publicly. let's listen to senator mark warner here from last night talking about james comey and
testifying. >> we just heard from the director that he's not able to make it tuesday. it's my hope we can find a time, i think it's really important that the congress and more broadly the american people hear director comey's side of the story. >> what do you make of the news this morning that comey wants to testify, he wants to do it publicly. do you think that will happen? >> i do think it will happen. i think eventually we'll see director comey take an oath and testify before the congress in an open hearing because i think that he believes in transparency and in some points in history, you know, it was to a fault i think that he's been criticized for the way he handled the e-mail investigation and almost trying too hard to appear transparent in that regard so i think it's important that he testified in front of congress
under oath because we do need to get to the bottom of not only the hacking but now this new issue that's been raised this week which is why the president would all of a sudden in the middle of a ten year term now what was mentioned earlier is that there should be term limits. there are. there's a reason why there's a ten year term for fbi director. they are supposed to be apolitical. be able to go across more than one administration so they are not partisan. the fact that the president in his own words admits he fired director comey because of the russian investigation into his own campaign we need to know more about that specifically and also ensure that the investigation continues in earnest in the fbi and senate and house and i don't know how we do that without a special prosecutor. i think that this process actually has been too politicized. i do hope we hear from information director jim comey. >> stay with us. you see on your screen now this
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go to xfinity.com/myaccount jerry falwell jr. president of liberty university, another president, president of the united states will speak in just a moment there at the university. it's his first commencement speech since taking office. >> and coming after a tumultuous week for the white house. they've been dealing with the fallout from the sudden firing of fbi director koem. the president spoke about finding a replacement for him on air force one a little bit earlier. let'sist end to this. >> do you think you might make a decision before saturday? >> these are outstanding people that are very well known.
highest level. we could make a fast decision. >> before the trip next week possibly >> even that is possible. i think the process will be quick because almost all of them are very well known. they've been vetted over their lifetime essentially but very well known, highly respected, really talented people and that's what we want for the fbi. i'll see you over at the school. have a good time. >> thank you very much, mr. president. >> hearing from the president as opposed to one of the surrogates whom we've heard a lot from. >> let's play sean spicer at yesterday's daily briefing there at the white house. i'm going to play this for our panel as we welcome them back in. again, let's listen to sean spicer, a bit of sound, a match up from yesterday's briefing.
>> i'm not aware. i haven't spoken to him about it about the reason. identify not asked him about the deputy -- identify not asked him about -- general lew i don't go through the list of employees and ask him. so identify not asked him specifically about that. >> the number of times yesterday, ti adamt we heard se say i don't know, but more than we've heard in the past. how has the president's, i guess, 180 on how he came to the decision to fire james comey affected that relationship potentially between the president and his communications director, the press secretary, deputy press secretary? >> well, i don't know about their personal relationship but i'll say this, which is that the white house communications director, or director of communications, his job or her
job sometimes is to support the president and clean up the president's messes if that's required. i think the problem last week and this gets back to something ron said is deeper than that. the president just didn't change the rationale the public rationale for firing comey. the way he explained himself put himself in joe jeopardy. i'm not saying yet legal jeopardy but he actually -- he actually deepened suspicions that he did this because he was worried about the direction that the russian investigation was going. i'm not saying that was the reason he did it. but the way in which he explained himself. and the letter that he sent to mr. comey. both of these are tell tale, and give you a sense that's what motivated him. if that's what motivated him there will be enormous pressure
on whoever he selects. >> let's listen here to the president of the united states, his first commencement speech. [ applause ] >> thank you very much, everybody. and congratulations to the class of 2017. that's some achievements. [ applause ] this is your day and you've earned every minute of it. and i'm thrilled to be back at liberty university. i've been here, this is now my third time. and we love setting records. right? we always set records. we have to set records. we have no choice. it's been a little over a year since i've spoken on your beautiful campus, and so much as changed. right here the class of 2017 dressed in cap and gown, graduating to a totally brilliant future. and here i am standing before
you as president of the united states, so i'm guessing there are some people here today who thought that either one of those things -- either one -- would really require major help from god. do we agree? [ laughter ] [ applause ] and we got it. [ applause ] but here we are celebrating together on this very joyous occasion, and there's no place in the world i rather be to give my first commencement address as president than here with my wonderful friends at liberty university. [ applause ] and i accept this invitation a long time ago. i said to jerry that i would be there. and when i say something, i mean it. [ applause ]
i want to thank president jerry falwell and his incredible wife becky. stand up, becky. for their kind words. their steadfast support. and their really wonderful friendship. let me also extend our appreciation to the entire falwell family, trey, sara, leslie and caroline. thank you for everything you do to make this university so exceptional. truly one of the great schools. most importantly to our new graduate, each of you should take immense pride in what you have achieved. there's another group of amazing people we want to celebrate today. and they are the ones who have made this journey possible for you, and you know who that is? nobody. you forgot already. you're going to go out and do whatever you're going to do. some of you will make a lot of
money. some will be even happier doing other things. they are your parents and grandparents. don't forget them. [ applause ] you haven't for got them have you? never ever forget them. they are great. especially this weekend let's make sure we give a really extra special thanks to the moms. [ applause ] don't forget our moms. because graduates today is your day. today is your day. but in all of this excitement don't forget that tomorrow is mother's day. right? i had a great mother. she's looking down now. but i had a great mother. i always loved mother's day. we're also deeply honored to be joined by some of the nearly 6,000 service members, military veterans and military spouses who are receiving their diplomas today. would you please stand. please stand.
[ applause ] wow. [ applause ] that's great. thank you very much. great job. we're profoundly grateful over tory single one of you sacrificed to keep us safe and to protect god's precious gift of freedom. it is truly a testament to this university and to the values that you embrace that your graduating class includes so many patriots who have served our country in uniform. thank you very much. to the class of 2017, today you end one chapter but you are about to begin the greatest adventure of your life. just think for a moment of how blessed you are to be here today at this great, great university. living in this amazing country,
surrounded by people who you love and care about so much. then ask yourself, with all of those blessings, and all of the blessings that you've been given, what will you give back to this country and, indeed, to the world? what imprint will you leave in the sands of history? what will future americans say we did in our brief time right here on earth? did we take risks? did we dare to defy expectations? did we challenge accepted wisdom and take on established systems? i think die, but we all did. and we're all doing it. or did we just go along with
convention, swim downstream so easily with the current and just give in because it was the easy way, it was the traditional way, or it was the accepted way? remember this, nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy. following your convictions means you must be willing to face criticism from those who lack the same courage to do what is right, and they know what is right, but they don't have the courage or the guts or the stamina to take it and to do it. it's called the road less traveled. i know that each of you will be a warrior for the truth. will be a warrior for our country. and for your family. i know that each of you will do
what is right, not what is the easy way, and that you will be true to yourself and your country and your believes. in my short time in washington, i've seen firsthand how the system is broken. a small group of failed voices who think they know everything and understand everyone, want to tell everybody else how to live and what to do and how to think. but you aren't going to let other people tell you what you believe, especially when you know that you're right. [ applause ] and those of you graduating here today, who have given half a million hours of charity, last year alone, unbelievable amount of work and charity and few
universities or colleges can claim anything even close, we don't need a lecture from washington on how to lead our lives. i'm standing here looking at the next generation of american leaders. there may very well be a president or two in our midst. anybody think they are going to be president, raise your hand? [ applause ] in your hearts are inscribed the ovals of service, sacrifice and devotion. now you must go forth into the world and turn your hopes and dreams into action. america has always been the land of dreams, because america is a nation of true believers. when the pilgrims landed at
plymouth, they prayed. when the founders wrote the declaration of independence, they invoked our creator four times because in america we don't worship government, we worship god. [ applause ] that is why our elected officials put their hands on the bible and say, so help me god. as they take the oath of office. it is why our currency proudly declares in god we trust. and it's why we proudly proclaim that we are one nation under god. every time we say the pledge of allegiance. [ applause ]
the story of america is the story of an adventure that began with deep faith, big dreams, and humble beginnings. that is also the story of liberty university. when i think about the visionary founder of this great institution, reverend jerry falwell sr., i can only imagine how excited he would be if he could see all of this and all of you today and how proud he would be of his son and of his family. in just two days we will mark the tenth anniversary of reverend falwell's passing. i juiced to love watching him on television, hearing him preach. he was a very special man. he would be so proud not just at
what you've achieved, but of the young men and women of character that you've all become. and, jerry, i know your dad is looking down on you right now, and he is proud. he is very proud. [ applause ] so congratulations on a great job, jerry. [ applause ] reverend falwell's life is a testament of the power of faith to change the world, inspiring legacy that we see all around us in this great stadium, this is a beautiful stadium, and it is packed. i'm so happy about that. i said how are you going to fill up a place like that. it is packed, jerry. [ laughter ] it is a beautiful campus.
it's a world class university for evangelical christians and i want to thank you because boy did you come out and vote, those of you that are old enough. in other words, your parents. [ cheers and applause ] boy oh, boy you voted. you voted. no doubt many people told him his vision was impossible. and i am sure they continue to say that so long after he started at the beginning with just 154 students. but the fact is no one has ever achieved anything significant without a chorus of critics standing on the sidelines explaining why it can't to be done. nothing is easier or more pathetic than being a critic, because they are people that can't get the job done, but the future belongs to the dreamers.
not to the critics. the future belongs to the people who follow their heart no matter what the critics say. because they truly believe in their vision. at liberty your leaders knew from the very beginning that a strong athletic program would help this campus grow so that this school might transform more lives. that is why a crucial part of reverend falwell's vision for making liberty a world class institution was having a world class football team. much like the great teams of notre dame. great school. great place. in fact, vice president mike pence is there today. doing a fabulous job as he always does. [ applause ] a few years ago the "new york times" even roa story on the great ambitions of the liberty
flames. that story prompted a long time president of another school to write a letter to jerry. it's a letter that reverend falwell would have been very, very pleased to read. jerry tells me that letter now hangs in the wall in the boardroom of your great university. it came from the late father theodore hesper who was the beloved president of the university of notre dame, 35 years ago. like this school's founder, he was a truly kind-hearted man, of very, very deep faith. in the letter the father recounted recount ed notre dame's own rise to a football powerhouse and he wrote something so amazing and generous, he wrote i think that
you are on that same trajectory now and i want to wish you all the best and encourage you from the start, and from being able to start very small and arriving in the big time. thanks to hard work, great faith and incredible devotion those dreams have come true. as of february of this year, the liberty flames are playing in the fbs, the highest level of competition in ncaa football. [ applause ] don't clap. that could be tough. don't clap. that could be tough. i'm a little worried. i don't want to look at some of the scores here. swrerry, are you su-- jerry are you know what you're doing here. those other players are big and strong and fast. from the most humble roots you've become a powerhouse in bothation and sports and just wait until the world hears the
football teams you'll be playing on your schedule starting next season. president falwell gave me a list of some of those schools, the ones you'll be playing in 2018. would you like me to read the names, just came out? would you like hear them? i'm a little bit concerned. [ laughter ] u-mass. virginia. auburn. jerry, are you sure you know what you're doing? [ laughter ] jerry, auburn. i don't know about that, jerry. this could be trouble, jerry. rutgers. old dominion. brigham young. army. i might be at that game. who am i supposed to root for? tell me. that's a tough one, jerry. i don't know, jerry. i'll have to think about that one, jerry.
buffalo. troy. virginia tech. oh, no, jerry, ole miss. and wake forest. those are really top schools. maybe in four or five years. maybe you'll build it up. the success of your athletic program arriving on the big stage should be a reminder to every new graduate of just what you can achieve when you start small, pursue a big vision and never ever quit. you never quit. if i give you one message to hold in your hearts today, it's this. never ever give up. there will be times in your life you'll want to quit, you'll want to go home. you'll want to go home, perhaps to that wonderful mother that's sitting back there watching you and saying mom, i can't do it. i can't do it. just never quit. go back home and tell mom, dad,
i can do it. i can do it. i will do it. i'll be successful. i've seen so many brilliant people, they gave up in life. they were totally brilliant. they were top of their class. they were the best students. they were the best of everything. they gave up. i've seen others who really didn't have that talent or that ability and they are among the most successful people today in the world because they never quit and they never gave up. so just remember that, never stop fighting for what you believe in and for the people who care about you. carry yourself with dignity and pride. demand the best from yourself. and be totally unafraid to challenge entrenched interests and failed power structures. does that sound familiar, by the way? the more people tell you it's not possible, that it can't to be done, the more you should be
absolutely determined to prove them wrong. treat the word "impossible" as nothing more than motivation. relish the opportunity to be the outsider. embr embrace that label. being an outside serrefine. embrace that label. because it's the outsiders who change the world and make a real and lasting difference. the more that a broken system tells you that you're wrong, the more certain you should be that you must keep pushing ahead. you must keep pushing forward. and always have the courage to be yourself. most importantly, you have to do what you love. you have to do what you love. i've seen so many people, they are forced through lots of
reasons, sometimes including family to go down a path that they don't want to go down. to go down a path that leads them to something that they don't love. that they don't enjoy. you have to do what you love, or you most likely won't be very successful at it. so do what you love. i want to recognize a friend who is here with us today, who can serve as an inspiration to us all. someone who doesn't know the meaning of the word quit. real champion. a true, true champion. both on the field, off the field, he's a hall of fame quarterback for the buffalo bills, really a good friend of mine, amazing guy, jim kelly. where's jim? he's here some place. stand up jim. [ applause ] what a great man. [ applause ] jim kelly.
he was tough. jim, do you have any idea how much money you would be making today? they would hit jim, it was like tackling a linebacker. they would hit jim and keep going down the field. he was much more than a quarterback. he had tremendous heart and he knew how to win. jim is tough and his toughest fight of all was that he beat cancer not once but twice. [ applause ] and i saw him and his incredible wife as they were in a very low moment, jill. very, very low moment. and it was amazing the way they fought. it didn't look good. i would have said maybe, maybe
it's not going to happen. but there was always that hope because of jim and jim's heart. but i want to just say it's great to have you here today, jim, and these people are big, big fans. if you can get a young version of jim kelly, you'll be beating a lot of teams, jerry. so, interestingly, though, i said i wonder what jim is doing here. his daughter erin crosses the goal line to you and today with you. so erin, stand up. where are you, erin? where is erin? congratulations erin. congratulations. graduating from liberty. [ applause ] great choice. thank you. liberty university is a place where they really have true champions. and you have a simple creed that you live by, to be really
champions for christ. whether you're called to be a missionary overseas, to shepherd a church or to be a leader in your community, you are living witness of the gospel message of faith, hope and love. and i must tell you i'm so proud as your president to have helped you along over the past short period of time. i said i was going to do it and, jerry, i did it. a lot of people are very happy with what's taking place, especially last week. we did some very important signings. [ applause ] right, james? very important signings. america is better when people put their faith into action. as long as i am your president, no one is ever going to stop you from practicing your faith, or from preaching what's in your heart.
[ cheers and applause ] we will always stands up the right for all americans to pray to god and to follow his teachings. america is beginning a new chapter. today each of you begins a new chapter as well. when your story goes from here, it will be defined by your vision, your perseverance, and your grit. that's a word jim kelly knows very well, your grit. in this i'm reminded of another man you know very well. and who has joined us here today. his name is george rogers. liberty university cfo and vice president for a quarter of a century. during world war ii, george spent three and a half years as
a prisoner of war. he saw many of his fellow soldiers die during the death march. he was the victim of starvation and torture as a prisoner of war. when he was finally set free he weighed just 85 pounds and was told he would not live past the age of 40. today george is 98 years old. [ applause ] great. [ applause ]
[ applause ] that's so great, george. if anyone ever had reason to quit, to give into the bitterness and anger that we all face at some point, to lose hope in god's vision for his life, it was indeed george rogers. but that's not what he did. he stood up for his country. he stood up for his community. he stood up for his family. and he defended civilization against a tide of bom barbarity
the kind of barbarity we're seeing today. we're doing very well in encountering it. you'll be hearing a lot about it next greek our generals. things are going along very, very well. through it all, he kept his faith in god, even in the darkest depths of despair. like so many others of his generation, george came home to a nation full of optimism and pride and began to live out the american dream. he started a family. he discovered god's plan for him and pursued that vision with all his might, pouring his passion into a tiny college in a place called lynchburg, virginia. did you ever hear of that? lynchburg. we love